Nigel Sharp isn’t making any plans past May 2017. He’s a U.K. citizen trying to build a startup in the U.S., which means he can’t get a conventional employer-sponsored work visa. His temporary one, granted with the support of the University of Colorado at Boulder as part of an entrepreneurship program, expires on May 28. “I have no clear path on what happens afterward,” he says. “I’m sitting here in Boulder, panicking.” His last company, presentation-software business Lionsharp, got $550,000 from American venture funds two years ago but folded after failing to secure further investment. Too risky, he and his co-founders were told, until you can find a way to resolve your immigration status and stay in the U.S. for good.
That’s why Sharp, a fast-talking 31-year-old, is keeping close tabs on a proposal from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The inelegantly named entrepreneurial “parole” would allow visa-less startup types to stay in the country for two years, with a possible three-year extension, if they own at least 15 percent of a U.S.-based startup formed in the past three years that’s raised $345,000 in investment capital. Sharp has checked all those boxes before. (Lionsharp was incorporated in Delaware.) “It may be the salvation that allows me to stay in the U.S. this time around,” he says. His new venture makes software designed to automate data centers.
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